It’s amazing what you find when you’re looking for something else. Recently I was digging around in our garage when I discovered a bag full of neoprene drink holders. You know can coolers, or stubby holders. It was big, and full and hadn’t been seen for years. I used to collect them, and while they did come in handy a few times, we really don’t need them any more. It was funny looking through the bag and reminiscing about the people, events and places they came from. All seemed like a good idea at the time, but sadly now they are just another item waiting to be put in to landfill…
Or are they?
Our koozie (that’s another name) collection sat on the front porch ready for the donation bin for a while. Then one day I decided they must be useful for something. I did an internet search and was actually impressed with some of the suggested uses. One of which I did straight away. Using them around hubby’s shaving cream can to stop rust circles in the bathroom cupboard.
Other ideas I liked for them were:
- Holding hot items in the kitchen
- Holding cold things like icy poles
- Ripening avocados overnight… I know, right!
- Storing breakables
Some questionable uses included:
- Making Christmas ornaments
- Cutting them into bike gloves
- A vase or table centrepiece
- Frame them for decoration
- Cutting them up into small pieces and using as pillow stuffing
- Protection for dog paws. Yep there’s even a video!
Then I started trying to find information about recycling them, but it appears there’s not much happening in Australia. Rip curl were doing a lot back in 2010 including developing a foundation to help environmental initiatives. I read they were using more sustainable products for their clothing and apparently turning old wetsuits into shoes. I haven’t been able to find much about what they are doing now though. There really isn’t anything on their website at all. In fact they’ve now earned the ‘Don’t Buy‘ label on the rankabrand.org website because of their lack of transparency about sustainability.
There is a little bit happening overseas in regard to recycling like at Lava Rubber. They make yoga mats and coasters out of neoprene in the USA. There is also an amazing new initiative in the UK between Finisterre in partnership with Exeter University’s centre of excellence for Materials Reengineering. They are hiring a Wetsuit Recycler to support the brand’s commitment to innovation and sustainability. As it says in the article, ‘it’s success is not guaranteed’ but it really has been a long time coming. So there is hope for proper wetsuit recycling options, eventually.
During my search for recycling options I also stumbled across information about tyre recycling, which is another interesting problem. I know some scientists are working on making biofuel out of them. Just search for tyres into biofuel and there is lots of information, or start with this. Such amazing things can be done.
Back to dealing with neoprene. I was pleasantly surprised to read about surf brands developing wetsuits out of renewable materials. So called ‘green wetsuits’, but of course they’re incredibly expensive and still in the development phase. They have been in development for many years. It seems a difficult and expensive process.
It really is a whole area I had never really thought about. I mean do you know what neoprene is made out of? Wikipedia says that Neoprene or polychloroprene is a family of synthetic rubbers that are produced by polymerization of chloroprene. It was invented by DuPont in the 1930s and is really hardy. There are more scientific explanations but I didn’t think they were necessary. It also has more uses than I had ever imagined.
This includes the lining of landfill sites. Yep, you may have read this in the article about green wetsuits, but here’s another article I found actually stating that it would be used for this purpose. I know, that’s another area I had never thought about. Landfill lining. There are companies that specialise in it. It seems PVC plastic is often used now to minimise contamination of the land below and above if need be. Eh, it gets depressing the more you dig around.
After starting off with a bag of promotional goods and ending up thinking about the lining of landfill sites, I have certainly learnt a lot from our stubby holder collection. I don’t call myself Eco Fun Mum for no reason though. I’m bringing this lesson back to me and my family. To a way we can use this knowledge and make something fun out of it. Well maybe not out of the knowledge, but out of the koozies anyway.
So we’ve started making icy pole holders out of them. Just in time for summer. Now I can’t really sew. I can very poorly sew on a button or darn a sock, but more than that and I’m out of my depth. Mr.7 has spent an hour at school learning to sew and thinks he’s an expert. So between us we have been cutting and stitching together neoprene to make holders the perfect size for our reusable icy poles. They are actually handy to keep hands warm and also to bend them into when the ice needs pushing up.
I mean the pile of holey socks can wait, and it’s much more fun creating new things. The plan, well Mr.7’s plan, is to sell them for $100 each. “We’ll be rich mum,” he thinks. I suggested with give them to our friends as Christmas presents. I mean who doesn’t love a home made gift!? So far we’ve only really made enough for ourselves, and the stitching isn’t great, but it’s a way for us both to improve our sewing skills. Who knows, maybe I’ll finally finish that dog coat I started about eight years ago too!?
We’re also helping to stop a small amount of stuff being sent to landfill. Well for the meantime anyway, and they’re a great talking point as to how they came about. Who knows what learning the next bag of goodies hiding in our garage will bring? I’m sure it’ll lead us somewhere we didn’t expect.
I’d love to hear any other uses you may have for our stubby holder collection.